The Bridge House Hotel, a popular hotel and restaurant venue in the heart of West Dorset’s Beaminster, has, for many years, served as a haven to weary travellers and inquisitive visitors. We review their Afternoon High Tea and other quintessentially English fancies and investigate what it is that keeps this travel destination so incredibly popular with both local and foreign visitors.
On the hottest day of the year, a lazy Sunday where even the seagulls aren’t interested in flapping about, we find ourselves under the forgiving branches of a Whitebeam tree, in a beautifully manicured enclosed garden of a 13th century Beaminster stalwart, the Bridge House hotel.
This hotel, which was originally a Priests House, has bid visitors welcome for many years, and to this day, continues to be a popular attraction to many as both as a place to stay, as well as a smorgasbord of some inspired, locally-sourced, award-winning meals.
The starched table cloths dance in the slight breeze which brings relief to weary wanderers. As lazy lunchers sip on their chilled Chardonnay and enjoy the remainder of this Sunday afternoon, we opt for a table on the grass, right beside a lavender bush, home to a number of seemingly resident butterflies.
But on this occasion, we are here for Afternoon Tea. Not appearing on the regular tea menu, Mark explains that the Bridge House has had the privilege to serve Afternoon Tea on a number of occasions at weddings and tea parties that they’ve hosted, and are now in the process of looking to introduce this option as a regular feature for those looking for a luxurious afternoon option, alongside the traditional cream teas and Dorset apple cake. He suggests you advise the team, prior to arrival, when wishing to try the High Tea. We wait, with anticipation, for a new experience from the already famous culinary wizards.
Our tea is prepared and served by Geraldine, one of the chefs at the Bridge House.
Geraldine places the tower of temptations in front of us, and we sit back in our chairs and marvel at the work of art of each individual delicacy, carefully hand-crafted to become masterpieces in their own right. We feel slightly distraught at the thought of destroying them. Geraldine takes us through each tier of the tea tower, carefully describing each one from the salmon sandwich through to the mint and white chocolate mousse cup.
Almost all of the Bridge House Hotel’s ingredients are sourced locally, and I laugh and recall the time I saw the hotel’s head chef wandering back to the hotel with a box laden with the freshest of fruit and vegetables from the Beaminster’s local greengrocer. The tea is Clipper – another local Beaminster-produced favourite, now distributed all over the world, and we savour each sip as the heat from the teapot seems to calm our souls in the 31 degree swelter.
The setting couldn’t be more perfect and we nibble our way through traditional English tea sandwiches made with the best cucumber, smoked salmon and ham to the coconut panacotta with fresh blackcurrants and strawberries in a pastry crust filled with summer goodness. We leave the pièce de résistance, the white chocolate mousse cup, to the end. An impressive and beautifully presented piece such as this deserves the grandeur of nothing less than a huge finale. The Bridge House team have done themselves proud, and it is not hard to picture hours of tea parties, birthday gatherings or simple Sunday 3pm “Let’s Have Tea” spontaneity that wait for us at the Bridge House Hotel.
The Hotel boasts some of the most beautifully individually decorated rooms, and owners Mark and Joanne Donovan are more than happy to accommodate pet-owners in their ground floor cottages, which are perfect for access to the courtyard and garden. If you’re partial to an old Victorian tub with a beautifully ornate mirror keeping a watchful eye, or if you enjoy the allure of a four poster bed with crisp white linen that gently invites you in, then booking a room at the Bridge House is the perfect excuse for a getaway in one of the most beautiful corners of the UK.
We could tell you about the secret Priests escape passage that led to a secret cavity just above the bar, or the history of room number 3; we could also tell you about the secret window in the wall where Sacrament was served under very dangerous and trying times (hint: if you look closely enough, you’ll see the remains of a tiny window which has since been sealed shut with brick and mortar); or we could tell you about the incredible art hanging on the walls of the bar, the halls, the rooms, most of which is for sale, but those are things you’ll need to experience for yourself when you next plan a trip to the Bridge House, and whether you simply live up the road, as we do, or on the other side of the country, or even the other side of the world, there is every reason to have visited The Bridge House Hotel in Beaminster, at least once.
As the bells from St Mary’s indicate the start of service and the start to a new working week, we reluctantly put our shoes back on, after callously kicking them off mid-Victoria Sponge, and lazily amble back to our car, back to our home completely delirious with thoughts of garden mint leaves dipped in chocolate, clotted cream scones and unruly clover growing in the shade of our tea party.